Great Days out in the North West of England

So the other day someone mentioned to me that M and I were always going somewhere. I laughed and blithely admitted that we were. But that phrase made me think.

M and I were both brought up in quite nuclear families, both our households consisting of 2 parents (1st and only marriage) and siblings. Often during school holidays our parents used to take us on days out with M’s parents favouring North Wales and the Lake District and my family favouring Blackpool and the seaside generally.

As adults, and as a married couple M and I are always, in fact, going somewhere. Some couples have “date night” but neither of us are night owls, so prefer date days. We aren’t really international jet setters, but we do love a day trip and/or a weekend away. Sometimes we plan where we want to go and sometimes we just go out for breakfast and see where the day takes us. As we don’t have kids or pets (for now) we are quite free to go out wandering as long as we like and so I thought I would put together a top ten of our favourite day tips in the North West of England:

  • “The Squirrels” – this is what we call it, but its proper name is Formby Point. This is a beautiful beach in Formby with a small area before the beach where very rare Red Squirrels live.
  • Martin Mere – this is something we only recently discovered and it’s a Wetland Conservation Area in Burscough – we loved it.
  • Bent Garden & Home – this originally was a garden centre, but today it’s much more than that. It has everything several shops and departments, not to mention a gorgeous restaurant and patisserie!
  • Delamere Forest – this is a large forest in Cheshire which has visitors centre, Go Ape and lots of well marked routes of different lengths. If you want to somewhere to go that will only cost you the parking, then this is your place. There is a cafe, but we tend to take packed lunch, as the cafe is ALWAYS heaving.
  • The Lake District – It’s impossible to break this down into individual posts as there is far too much to lost, I’ll maybe to a separate post on this, but South Lakes are only 90 minutes from our house and it’s perfect for a day out or a short break.
  • Cheshire Oaks – this is another shopping one, but a great place to go for shopping, cinema & eating out. It gets busy though, so I would pick your time.
  • Pennington Flash – You might be spotting a theme here, but M and & like going for a walk and so Pennington Flash is another convenient place for us to go for a stoll. There are a series of paths, woodlands and a canal to walk alongside and a golf course and decent parking makes a great,low cost day out.
  • Haigh Hall – this is a country park in Wigan, which up until the last year or so, was a hugh park with a mediocre cafe and playground. But in 2017, it’s had massive redevelopment and it has high ropes, shops, 2 x huge cafes, crazy golf and loads more. Well worth a visit.
  • Knutsford / Tatton Park – This is a tiny cheshire town and huge country estate next to it. Tatton is an amazing country estate and Knutsford is a cute village where you can shop and eat. Tatton is worth a walk around as the gardens are glorious.

There are so many more I could add, but these are my favourite. I would love to hear any days out that you have loved, leave me a comment or get in touch here.

G x

North West Days Out | Martin Mere | Review

Yesterday was a Sunday and as I had been craving the beach, we had planned to go to Lytham St Annes for a lovely walk. We haven’t been for about 4-5 years since we lost Peggy-dog and so I was really looking forward to it.

However, perhaps trying to get to Lytham St Annes on the same day as the Blackpool Air Show was a mistake as very quickly we got stuck in a massive load of traffic ?. As we approached a junction we decided to make a swift exit and after a small discussion, we decided to go to Martin Mere which is a wetlands centre in Burscough in West Lancashire.

First impressions were good as the approach is well signposted and there was plenty of room in the car park. It was £12 each to get in, which we Gift Aided and very quickly we were in. We didn’t spend too long in the main building as it was full of children (well it is the Summer holidays). We only realised later that if we had investigated a little we could have got a map and some food for the birds.. maybe next time.

I want to say right off the bat, that we loved Martin Mere. As soon as we came out of the main building,we were met with a small picnic area, a fenced off play area, snacks kiosk and FLAMINGOS!!! The flamingos are all together on an island with only with a small body of water and crucially no fence between you and them. Loved it!

Then for the rest afternoon we wandered around the large wetlands meeting SO many ducks and different birds, most of which were either wandering around freely or behind very low fences.

As well as the birds, there are also lots of wetlands and fab little things to find in amongst the windy paths and foliage. We particularly liked the bug hotel and criss cross obstacles and walk ways.

In the far reaches of the wetlands there are also a series of hides where more serious bird spotters can sit for as many hours as they like, spotting and photographing the beautiful wildlife that have made Martin Mere their natural habitat.

Another thing we spotted was a version of Top Trumps a kind of game for younger visitors to Martin Mere had to spot various animals and birds around the park. Love this.

Overall, we had a brilliant day. We were stuck in traffic for 1 ½ hours before arriving and this whole experience rescued the day. It was as calm as it was entertaining and so much fun. We loved wandering around and finding lots of new bits of the wetlands – it was so much bigger than we expected. A great day out.

So ????? Martin Mere, I’ve not doubt we will be back.

G x

Dealing with loss

This is quite a difficult post to write for me as it’s quite an emotive subject and unfortunately something I have had to deal with quite a lot over the last few years. If you have been following my blog at all you might know that I lost my mum in 2015 to Esophageal Cancer and that single event almost broke me in two. But sadly for me, this wasn’t the only massive loss in the recent past. I lost my Gran (last remaining grandparent) 3 months after our wedding in 2012, we lost our beloved Peggy-dog the week I started at The Prince’s Trust in 2013 and then in 2014 my mum was diagnosed with Cancer and she passed away almost exactly a year later.

So since 2011 (Gran’s diagnosis) something shitty has happened every year, with 2016 being the first year nothing devastating happened. Granted, M’s dad had a massive operation and was in HDU for a short while, but he has bounced back quicker that Katy Price’s norks, but I digress.

For 5 solid years I was either dealing with or recovering from something awful and quite honestly and inevitably it took its toll. My mum had the most harrowing time whilst she was ill and she sort of leapt from one heartbreaking set back to another.  My Gran got constant water infections due to her bladder cancer and basically went a bit crackers. I spent one interesting afternoon, whilst taking her to radiotherapy, answering the same 5 questions over and over again, whilst feeding her jaffa cakes. Peggy dog spent the last 3-4 months of her life just being properly miserable, not being interested in us at all and slowly going deaf. However her ability to sniff out a decent bit of chicken, thankfully never left her. But it was all very very hard to watch and once all three of them eventually left this world, it left me so so sad.

About 5 months after mum died, I still wasn’t sleeping and I was still having such terrible nightmares. My worse one, was dreaming on and off all night that people kept telling me mum had died and in my dream, I was hearing the news afresh each and every time. Experiencing that heartbreaking news most nights and then crying at the start of some annual leave because I wasn’t looking forward to it, forced me to take action and I went to see my GP.

My GP was new and I didn’t know her, so was a little embarrassed to explain my situation. It’s so hard to be instantly very vulnerable to someone who you’ve literally just met. But explain I did and the GP was lovely to me and explained that I could be signed up for some counselling and I only had to speak to the receptionist on the way out. However, on the way out, the receptionist told me that whilst I would be assessed quickly, the wait to see someone was 6 months. I sighed a hopeless sigh and walked out without ever calling the number they gave me. I waited almost another year before I attempted to get help again, as whilst some things have improved, I was still finding some things quite tough.

My salvation came on Twitter of all places in a thing called #sthelenshour which is an hour on a Monday night in which my local town’s business sort of go onto Twitter and shout about their business and support the town and all the amazing things that happen. I came across an amazing councillor called Maureen who was easy to deal with, reasonably priced and available. I had about 8 sessions and it instantly made a massive difference. I was of course in tears within a few minutes of starting our first session, but that was just what I needed. Maureen made me think about things differently and worked with me to help me cope with my grief and all the difficulties that come with it. It helped and I mean REALLY helped.

It’s so sad that this service isn’t provided on the NHS, but paying for a private therapist saved my sleep and changed my dreams from scary horror movies to the more normal confusing 1 act plays where you jump from your living room to your childhood playground, all the while knowing you have to be at work in 5 minutes and you can’t find your keys.

From everything I’ve experienced My top tip on dealing with loss would definitely be speak to someone. I am not a person blessed with lots of friends and so I couldn’t call the girls to come round. My sister is lovely, but obviously when mum died, she was not only going through the same thing, but she was also raising my two nieces. I wasn’t alone though, as I am married to the most selfless, kind, caring and compassionate man in the world. Without him, I am not sure where I would be.

But I guess what I am saying is… speak to someone, anyone – your GP, your therapist, your neighbour – anyone. Dealing with loss is so hard and bottling things up only makes it worse. Call the Samaritans if your village is just you and your dog. Their number for the UK and ROI are:

 

Samaritans

Dealing with loss is devastating and hard, so don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling. We are all human.
G x

Getting a Dog: Update!

I blogged last week that we had decided to get another dog. One of the criteria for whether or not we would get a dog in September or next year, was whether or not I got offered a new job at work….

Well the bittersweet news is that I DID get offered the job and so we are going to get a dog in the Spring of 2018. Whilst I am really pleased about being promoted and excited to start something new, I am also disappointed that a doggo won’t be joining our family for a while yet. Quite a few people have been asking what type of dog we would like and the honest answer is we aren’t sure. Our lovely neighbours have just got a puppy, who is the cutest thing alive, but I am not sure we want a puppy and whilst reputable dog breeders are great, I think we are leaning towards getting a rescue dog.

I just love the idea of giving an abandoned dog a home and we just have to hope that we find a pupster that isn’t as high maintenance as Peggy was! If anything, I would like a dog that is not a handbag dog, but not taller than me and a non-shedding dog would be ideal. But I have a sneaky feeling I will go to the rescue centre and just fall in love.

Here’s hoping.

G x